Strategic Intelligence Summary For 01 November 2018 – Forward Observer Shop

Strategic Intelligence Summary For 01 November 2018

Strategic Intelligence contains intelligence reporting on the state of global security and instability, geostrategic issues affecting the United States, pre-war indicators, and assessments on the current risk of war. This report is available each week for Intelligence subscribers.

In this Strategic Intelligence Summary: (4,262 words)

  • European nations to strain under weight of African migration
  • Dunford: Diplomatic success will lead to military ‘discomfort’
  • Despite coup rumblings, U.S. military focused on humanitarian aid in Venezuela
  • China to develop domestic robotics manufacturing base
  • Force-on-force free play trains Marines to think
  • Navy releases new business operations plan
  • Snap mobilizations coming to U.S. Army
  • Pentagon to take budget cut in 2020
  • Canada purchases sub-hunter frigate
  • Mattis discusses National Defense Strategy
  • Putin: Russia will target countries that host NATO missiles
  • Russia’s only aircraft carrier damaged
  • Xi Jinping tells Chinese military to ‘Prepare for war’
  • China will ‘take military action’ on Taiwan
  • North Korea skirts sanctions through cyber heists
  • And more…

 Priority Intelligence Requirements:

PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries?

PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four flashpoints? (NATO-Russia, Indo-Pacific, Middle East, North Korea)

PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

European nations to strain under weight of African migration

Robert D. Kaplan, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, summarized his 1994 essay entitled, “The Coming Anarchy: How Scarcity, Crime, Overpopulation, Tribalism, and Disease Are Destroying the Social Fabric of the Planet.” Kaplan concludes that the West—particularly the elites in the West—ignore the anarchy in West Africa and the Middle East at their own peril. Kaplan also gets specific:
While Europe’s indigenous population stagnates, Africa’s population could grow from one billion to as much as four billion by the end of the century—and that is even with declining rates of population growth. Nigeria, whose population stands at 200 million, could reach 750 million by then, with concomitant erosion of agricultural soil. Thus, an era of migration from south-to-north may be only just beginning. This at a time, when, as experts suggest, the combined effects of automation, artificial intelligence and so-called 3D printing could make Western companies far less dependent on cheap labor in poor countries, further destabilizing them. Though middle classes are emerging in a number of African countries, that will only empower more people to vote with their feet and migrate.” [source]

(Analyst Comment: Nigeria is set to overtake the United States in population by 2050, and many analysts have warned that the combination of decreasing arable land and increasing population will result in continued mass migration from sub-Saharan Africa. What’s happening now with the European migrant crisis as a tactical data point on a much longer and larger strategic trend — an appetizer of what’s to come if Kaplan is correct. Europe is 10-12% of the global population, roughly seven percent of the world’s total landmass, but accounts for over 50 percent of global welfare spending. It’s no wonder that Europe is a target, in this case, for economic migration. Several years ago, a reader recommended that I read a book — I don’t recall the title — about the coming European civil wars. The book forecast that Eurozone nations would adopt a policy of mass deportation in an effort to save their national cultures. More recently, I’ve been following the rise of right wing power in Europe not only because of its effects on the future of Europe, but also because it’s partly an effect of Donald J. Trump’s nationalist populism. And then I go back to recent comments from former Trump White House advisor Steve Bannon who says that national populism in the “first inning” of its global rise. In fact, Bannon will soon be back in Europe working on disrupting the European Union Parliament’s status quo by getting a large number of right wing national populists elected to seats. Bannon certainly sees the the same trends that Kaplan sees. And if Kaplan’s projections are correct — that sub-Saharan Africa will have an abundant population exporting themselves into Europe, then all those predictions about civil wars across Europe just might come true.)

Dunford: Diplomatic success will lead to military ‘discomfort’

A week after the U.S. and South Korean militaries suspended the joint air exercise Vigilant Ace, U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford said diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula would lead to military “discomfort” in the coming months. Another exercise, Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, had been similarly canceled in August. Dunford explained the decision to cancel the exercises came as a result of an assessment that the current commander in Korea, General Vincent Brooks, is an experienced commander with three years of experience in the Korean theater.  “So we felt like we had sufficient staff training and exercises that had been conducted where we could look at tasks,” Dunford said. [source]

Despite coup rumblings, U.S. military focused on humanitarian aid in Venezuela

About 2.3 million Venezuelans, about 7 percent of the country’s population, have fled to countries throughout Latin America, the United States, and Spain as a result extreme poverty and inflation.  Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, has since consolidated power there. President Trump reportedly began asking for military options to the problem last year.  Top officials met with Venezuelan dissidents and floated the idea of a U.S.-backed coup of Maduro with Latin American leaders.  Those leaders and U.S. national security officials rejected the idea, opting instead for a coalition solution to the country’s financial and humanitarian crisis. Outgoing U.S. Southern Command head, Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, said earlier in the week,  “The solution right now has to be a diplomatic solution led by and embraced by the regional partners.”  He went on to say that the U.S. role is helping Venezuela’s neighboring countries with the humanitarian crisis of refugees pouring across their borders.  Tidd said that has included nearly $100 million in aid so far. [source]
China to develop robotics manufacturing base
China is leading the world in buying industrial robots with a 36% increase over buys last year. But China doesn’t plan to do this for too long as it wants to start manufacturing its own robots by 2020. Some of the robots it’s currently importing will, no doubt, be reverse engineered. China’s DJI already manufactures over two thirds of commercial and consumer drones. (Analyst’s Comment: If China manages to dominate research in Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing and robotics they will significantly and perhaps permanently increase the risk to U.S. national security and military dominance. As Vladimir Putin put it last year, the winner of the race in artificial intelligence is likely to become the world’s uncontested military leader.)

U.S. accuses Chinese of laser attacks

U.S. officials recently accused China of firing military grade lasers into the cockpit of a US Air Force C-130 over Djibouti five months ago. The pilot and co-pilot were treated for minor injuries. China denied the accusations, but the incident has resulted in the Air Force planning to spend almost $200 million dollars on eye protection for aviators.

Mattis calls for Yemen cease fire

Secretary of Defense James Mattis called for a cease fire in Yemen stating that the U.S. had been watching the conflict for long enough. He wants the Iranian backed Houthi rebels to come to the negotiating table with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Geneva within 30 days. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later called on the Saudi-Emirati coalition to cease its air strikes in populated areas and to cease hostilities altogether. Saudi Arabia intervened in the civil war in Yemen after the United Nations recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was attacked by the Iranian backed Houthi rebels. It’s estimated that at least 10,000 people have been killed so far (the real number is certainly higher), there have been outbreaks of cholera and famine has the potential to threaten another 13 million Yemenis leading the UN to posit that it could become the worst humanitarian crisis in 100 years. (Analyst Comment: The war in Yemen has morphed from a civil war between the legacy government of President Hadi, a Sunni, and Shi’ite Houthi rebels into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Hadi government has accused Tehran of providing arms to the rebels, which Tehran denies. But that begs the question of where the Houthis, from the impoverished north of Yemen, could find the funds to purchase Badr-1P rockets which have the range to reach Saudi Arabia from Yemen’s Red Sea coast.)


PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries?

Army to add robots to ground forces

The U.S. Army is looking to robotics to make their units more lethal and give them better situational awareness. Ultimately the aim is to have a robot under an autonomous system controlled by a soldier deliver a payload to a target with greater precision. (Analyst Comment: All four branches are investing heavily in robotics and drone technology. The Marine Corps is adding a “systems operator” to their infantry squads, with a primary job of controlling drones and enabling information integration.)

DoD increases MI budget

The Department of Defense increased spending on military intelligence by almost 18 percent in 2018. Current global operations are what’s driving the upward movement with money being spent on every aspect of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations. The increase is a large one when compared to the civilian intelligence communities who received a six percent increase. (Analyst Comment: “Intelligence drives operations” is an old military maxim. When the Chief of Staff of the Army, GEN Mark Milley recently remarked that on the battlefield of tomorrow if you stay in one place for two hours you were going to die, he was referring to the increasing ability of ISR to find, fix and direct the finishing fires in a very short period of time.)

Force-on-force free play trains Marines to think

According to Lt. Gen. David Berger, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, scripted scenarios in training exercises will soon be replaced by more force-on-force freestyle training. This training follows a new national defense strategy that focuses on long-term threats from near-peer opponents like Russia and China. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller wrote in a September 26 white letter to senior leaders that the Corps “must move beyond ‘scripted’ live-fire maneuvers and incorporate more force-on-force training in a free-play environment.” Much of this training will take place at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in California where units complete the Integrated-Training Exercises that prepare them for combat, according to Berger. [source]


82nd brings back an armored unit

The U.S. Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division recently reactivated its organic armor unit: A Company, 4th Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment. The unit will be equipped with Light Armored Vehicle 25A2 (LAV 25A2), which has been in use by the USMC since 1983. The LAV25A2 is an eight wheeled, amphibious vehicle with a three man crew and the capacity to carry six paratroopers. (Analyst Comment: The Army has struggled for decades to find a suitable replacement for the Viet Nam era M551 Sheridan light tank that was used by the 82nd up until 1984. At that time one of the division’s mission was Airborne Anti-Armor Defense (AAAD). The concept was using the division as a speed bump for the USSR in the Fulda Gap. This sudden renewed interest in finding an air-droppable, light armored vehicle after having gone without for so long is indicative of the renewed emphasis on the division’s mission of being “wheels up” and bound for any spot in the world in 18 hours. Especially if that spot is in Europe.)

Navy releases new business operations plan

The U.S. Navy released its new Business Operations Plan on Wednesday, with a focus on aligning the service with the new National Defense Strategy. The plan focuses on rebuilding readiness, strengthening relations with allies, and reforming Department of the Navy operations. Reforming business practices is considered a means of increasing the affordability of programs. According to the plan, focusing on reducing redundancies in the Navy and Marine Corps operations and creating a less centralized decision-making process will accomplish this. [source]


USAF receives large munitions delivery to Europe

The U.S. Air Force in Europe received the largest shipment of ordnance since 1999 when it was engaged in the air campaign over Kosovo. Around 100 containers of munitions were delivered, but officials declined to comment on the total weight of the shipment. (Analyst Comment: All the services are stockpiling munitions and equipment in Europe with the U.S. Army, for example, hurriedly shipping equipment with the objective of having an armored division’s worth of vehicles and equipment pre-positioned and fully mission capable at all times.)


Snap mobilizations coming to U.S. Army

According to a document released last week—titled “The Army Strategy”—“Army units must be able to alert, mobilize, and rapidly deploy into contested environments and operate effectively anywhere in the world.” The document provides the Army’s vision for the next 10 years and reflects an emphasis on combat readiness and great power competition as envisioned by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Key to this vision is Mattis’ Dynamic Force Employment concept, which calls on the services to be less predictable when carrying out deployments and missions worldwide. The plan includes the continued pre-positioning of stocks across Europe with the goal of having a division’s worth of equipment in place by 2021. This would enable units to deploy more quickly to the theater with fewer concerns about trailing logistics.
The plan calls for a shift to modernization in 2022, with the fielding of the next generation of combat vehicles, aerial platforms, and weapons systems by 2028. [source] (Analyst Comment: In previous weeks, I’ve discussed the Navy’s realization — and China’s and Russia’s, too — that the U.S. will struggle with protecting its capability in future great power conflicts. Protecting support and transport ships will be a central challenge for planners. The U.S. Navy’s declining submarine force is partly to blame. One D.C. think tank is calling for the U.S. Navy to expand beyond its planned 355 ships to 400, arguing that 355 is not enough to project sufficient power in both the Atlantic and Pacific.)


Pentagon to take budget cut in 2020

Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters last Friday that the Pentagon has been officially notified that the 2020 national security top line will suffer a 2.2. percent cut from this year. Shanahan described the new figure as being something more than a single-year blip; instead, it indicates a flattening defense budget in coming fiscal years. In order to illustrate for Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis the potential “trade-offs”, the Pentagon Comptroller is now developing two parallel budget documents, one using the $733 billion figure and the other with $700 billion. “It comes down to a judgment call, how fast do we modernize? And that’s probably the biggest knob that we have to turn,” Shanahan said. [source]


Canada purchases sub-hunter frigate

The Royal Canadian Navy ship is designed to move quietly, hunt submarines, and defend against hostile missiles and aircraft. Retired U.S. submarine officer Bryan Clark describes anti-submarine warfare (ASW) as a “big deal” for the Canadians, particularly given the Russian submarine and air threat in the arctic. Gary Fudge, a vice president with Lockheed Martin Canada, says the shift to ASW is an industry trend.  “For the last 15 years, most allied navies have put their efforts into anti-air warfare, whereas the threat that has emerged in the last 15 years is largely in submarine technologies,” Fudge said. Canada plans to purchase a total of 15 frigates at a cost of $60 billion. A final decision regarding the Type 26 is expected over the winter. [source]


Mattis discusses National Defense Strategy

During a wide-ranging one-hour interview at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., Secretary of Defense James Mattis answered national defense questions from the moderator, Steven Hadley, and the audience. The following is a summary of the key points made by Mattis during this interview.
Regarding the National Defense Strategy (NDS), Mattis explained prioritization of security threats as being categorized in terms of power, urgency, and will. In terms of “raw power”, Mattis said that Russia must be viewed as our main adversary due to their military activities over the past 10 years, its nuclear arsenal, and its violation of the INF Treaty. In terms of urgency, the main adversaries are twofold—violent extremists, including ISIS, and North Korea because of its nuclear and missile programs. Finally, in terms of will, the primary concern must be China, which seems to want “tribute states” around them and presents a more subtle threat than the Russians. Regarding China, Mattis says he believes that 15 years from now the United States will be remembered for how it set up conditions for peaceful relationships with China.
When asked about the military’s role in dealing with violent extremism in non-kinetic ways, Mattis said that the State Department must lead. He said that he had come to the conclusion after his retirement from the Marine Corps that diplomatic efforts had become militarized over recent years. He said the military’s role must be as an enabling/supporting element because you “can’t shoot your way out of this problem.” He also said there would need to be more collaboration between the military and law enforcement in order to deal with current threats while the State Department conducts diplomacy. In the longer term, the “next generation” will be dealt with diplomatically rather than militarily.
Switching to the recent indications that the U.S. will withdraw from its INF treaty with Russia, Mattis said that his research showed that in 2008 the Russians were called out for being in violation of the INF treaty.  Further, over the past 10 years they have been repeatedly urged to come back into compliance. He said NATO has been briefed on the INF violations. Talks continue on the diplomatic front, but the U.S. is still trying to find a solution.  At one point he called on audience members, including allied military officers, to email him with any ideas they might have for a solution, saying, “I don’t think all of the great ideas come from the country with the most aircraft carriers.”  He concluded that there are military options, both symmetric and asymmetric, which will be considered and decided on by the President.
Mattis touched on U.S. Cyber Command and its number one mission of protection of the election infrastructure and identification and blocking of the influence campaign. This is being carried out in coordination with Internet service providers and law enforcement. He characterized this as a difficult task in a democratic society like ours.
Regarding space as a warfighting domain, Mattis said space is definitely becoming competitive. Our strategy must be two-pronged—(1) defense of current civilian and military assets in space and (2) being prepared to use offensive weapons in space in case an opponent decides to militarize that domain. He said there must be a code of conduct in space similar to what we have on the earth so all countries are aware of the ground rules. He said we would organize a command that can compete in space as necessary with assistance from Congress, and characterized this problem as critical to our economy and way of life because of our reliance on space-based systems in the civilian and military domains.
At one point, when speaking about our relationships with allies, Mattis used a particularly interesting analogy when describing our “America First” slogan. He told the story of being on a flight and receiving the standard cautions from the flight attendant regarding a loss of cabin pressure and using the mask. Mattis said the attendant always says that you must first put on your mask before helping others. He went on to say that America must put on her mask first before being able to help allies; that to be a worthy ally we must be on a “fiscally stable path.” This was the analogy he used to convince NATO members to increase their contributions to the alliance.
Mattis concluded by describing his three lines of effort: (1) Making the U.S. military more lethal, (2) building stronger partnerships with our allies, and (3) reforming the way DoD does business to ensure better management of taxpayer money. With regard to the third point, he said that for the first time in 70 years there would be an audit of the U.S. Department of Defense. He said the process would be transparent and problems would be found and fixed. [source]


PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four? (NATO-Russia, Indo-Pacific, Middle East, North Korea)


Significant Developments:

Turkey moves forward with controversial S400 buy

Turkey has bought one S400 air defense system from Russia and will deploy it locally beginning in 2019. The U.S. brought a lot of pressure to bear on Turkey to prevent them from buying the system, even going so far as threatening to block the sale of the 100 F35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter that Ankara has committed to buying. The S400 is a mobile system comprising of a launcher with four missiles and the requisite tracking and targeting systems. It is considered the most lethal air defense system deployed today. (Analyst Comment: Every F35 that isn’t sold drives the price point of each airframe upward, a development the U.S. Air Force would not appreciate given the expense of the troubled system. Russia has been diligently trying to drive a wedge between Turkey and NATO for some time. If the Senate blocks the sale of the F35, look to Russia to step in with an offer of selling Turkey its fifth generation fighter the Su-57.)

Putin: Russia will target countries that host NATO missiles

On October 24, four days after President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. intends to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty over alleged Russian violations, Russian President Putin said Moscow would have to target any European country where the U.S. would deploy intermediate-range missiles. “We will, of course, assess the implications for NATO allies, for our security of the new Russian missiles and the Russian behavior,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on October 24. “But I don’t foresee that [NATO] allies will station more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile.” Putin denied the Trump administration’s allegations regarding alleged treaty violations, and he said he hoped to discuss the issue with Trump in Paris when both leaders attend November 11 events marking the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I. [source]


Russia’s only aircraft carrier damaged

Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, was damaged on Tuesday when an 80,000-ton floating dock sank, dropping a 70-ton crane on the ship.  The crane reportedly left a 215 square foot hole in the ship, but did not damage any of the ship’s vital systems.  The accident occurred at Murmansk, leaving four people injured and one missing, according to officials. The United Shipbuilding Corporation’s chief, Alexei Rakhmanov, said the accident would not significantly extend the time needed for the carrier’s refurbishment, which includes refitting with modern control systems and new weapons. Rakhmanov said, however, that the loss of the dock—the only one Russia has with that capacity—could disrupt the planned modernization of other Russian ships. [source]



Significant Developments:

Xi Jinping tells Chinese military to ‘Prepare for war’

During an inspection tour of the Southern Theatre Command last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the command must be combat ready.  The command is responsible for monitoring the South China Sea and Taiwan. “We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war,” Xi said. The comments come at a time when the region has seen increasing military tension between the U.S. and China as a result of Chinese militarization of the South China Sea and U.S. freedom-of-navigation exercises there. [source] (Analyst Comment: Xi’s message has two intended audiences: the US and Taiwan. The US has been conducting freedom of navigation exercises through the Strait of Taiwan and the ruling party in Taiwan, the Democratic Progressive Party favors independence.)


China will ‘take military action’ on Taiwan

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe warned that China is prepared to take military action if Taiwan were to declare independence.  Tensions between the two countries have become more strained since Taiwan’s election of Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party in 2016. Wei also commented on tensions in the South China Sea, characterizing actions by countries from outside the region—presumably including the U.S.—as “provocations” and a “pretense” of protecting freedom of flight and navigation. [source]




Middle East 

Significant Developments:

The Palestinian Central Council authorized the Palestinian Liberation Organization to suspend recognition of Israel until Israel recognizes the Palestinian State, its pre-1967 borders, and Jerusalem as its capital. After a two day meeting in Ramallah the council said the Palestinian Authority and the PLO will end security coordination, suspend economic agreements, the 1994 Paris Economic Protocol, and revoke the Oslo Accords. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to block any peace plan led by President Trump. (source) Analyst’s note: it is hard to see how this unilateral withdrawal by the Palestinians will materially help the Palestinian people. It is not to be expected that this move will influence Israel to change its security posture in the region.




North Korea

Significant Developments:

North Korea and South Korea have agreed to disarm at Panmunjom, recently completely the removal of weapons and posts from the site where only a year ago North Korean soldiers shot at and wounded a defecting North Korean soldier. Efforts are also underway to de-mine the demilitarized zone (DMZ). (Analyst Comment: it’s difficult to decipher whether North Korea is sincere in this effort or is driving a wedge deeper and deeper between the United States and South Korea. Events like this make for good copy and better video, but are little in the way of substantive movement towards denuclearization of the peninsula. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently upbraided his South Korean counterpart concerning the outcome of September’s inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang. The issue is that South Korea agreed to certain issues with North Korea without consulting the United States. President Moon of South Korea believes that complete denuclearization is not only possible, but “not far away.” Both sides agreed to cease training exercises along the border, withdraw guard posts and weapons from the Demilitarized Zone. But North Korea hasn’t pulled its conventional military back from the border and that includes the 14,000 pieces of tube artillery that are aimed directly at Seoul in the south. Kim Jong Un is also proposing a no-fly zone along the DMZ that will prevent South Korea and the US from observing any troop movements that North Korea may make along the border.)



– S.C.


Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

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